Sep 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

CIA launches new high-tech lab

Gina Haspel, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

In a bid to attract and retain top tech talent, the CIA has announced the formation of CIA Labs, a new venture designed to encourage innovation in "artificial intelligence, data analytics, biotechnology, advanced materials, and high-performance quantum computing,” among other areas, per MIT Technology Review.

How it works: Formed in part because of concerns over a talent drain to the private sector in Silicon Valley, CIA Labs will allow employees to patent their own inventions and keep 15% of the proceeds derived from them, with a maximum salary bump of $150,000 per annum.

  • The new initiative will seek to actively partner with academia and other members of the roughly 300 extant federal research laboratories.

Zoom in: The agency is particularly interested in big data technology that can process information in the field, Dawn Meyerriecks, head of the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, told MIT Technology Review’s Patrick Howell O’Neill.

  • “Militaries and intelligence agencies around the world deal in a multitude of sensors like, for instance, the kind of tech found on drones,” O’Neill writes.
  • “The CIA’s own sensors suck up incalculable mountains of data per second, [Meyerriecks] says. Officers badly want to develop massive computational power in a relatively small, low-power sensor so the sorting can be done quickly on the device instead of being sent back to a central system.”

The big picture: CIA Labs joins a constellation of agency-affiliated entities devoted to technological innovation in the service of national security, including the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology and In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital firm, which is based in Virginia and Silicon Valley.

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